Then Came Life: Living with Courage, Spirit, and Gratitude After Breast Cancer

Then Came Life: Living with Courage, Spirit, and Gratitude After Breast Cancer

by Geralyn Lucas

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Overview

Then Came Life: Living with Courage, Spirit, and Gratitude After Breast Cancer by Geralyn Lucas

The author of Why I Wore Lipstick to My Mastectomy dares all women who have had a stumble in life to harness their fighting spirit and stand back up with courage and optimism.
 
Twenty years ago, Geralyn Lucas put on red lipstick before entering the operating room to show everyone that she planned to come out the bold and daring woman she never thought she could be. At twenty-seven, she didn't realize how much her single act of courage would connect with women and endear her to breast cancer survivors across the globe.
 
In Then Came Life, Geralyn is back with the same fearless attitude, exploring what it means to survive cancer, only to face new challenges. When she was fighting cancer, Geralyn prayed she would live long enough to get wrinkles. Now in her mid-forties, she’s the mother of two miracle babies, one who’s grown into a mean tween with a fierce eye-roll and the other a tornado of little-boy energy who refuses to play by his preschool’s rules. Her storybook romance has become couples therapy with a grumpy prince, the job she loves moves across the country without her, and her hard-won wrinkles just make her long for Botox.
 
Then Came Life is a totally original response to life’s challenges that reminds readers to always find a way to turn the mundane in life into a miracle.  With an infectious sense of empowerment and hilarious voice, Geralyn has crafted a playbook for women everywhere to fall back in love with life. All women will recognize themselves in Geralyn and her story about re-discovering the resilience, courage, and humor needed to reinvent yourself at every age. 

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781592408955
Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date: 10/02/2014
Pages: 224
Product dimensions: 8.20(w) x 5.80(h) x 1.00(d)
Age Range: 18 Years

About the Author

Geralyn Lucas is an award-winning TV producer, author, lecturer, and women’s health advocate. She lives in New York City.

Read an Excerpt

CHAPTER 1

Right Now: Stop and Smell the Roses

Italk too much. Mostly to myself.

Sometimes the conversations are productive pep talks, but usually they are negative and don’t reflect how optimistic I want to be and all the money I spend on therapy and that I am a cancer survivor and I’m still alive.

I was only twenty-seven years old when I was diagnosed with a very aggressive breast cancer. Because of my age and the type of cancer, the prognosis wasn’t great: They expected me to have a recurrence within two years, and any future recurrence would more than likely be, as they said, “treatable,” not “curable.” Every six months I’d have blood tests to check my tumor levels; I was constantly put into different scanning machines so the doctors could look at all my organs to make sure the cancer hadn’t traveled somewhere else. A single rogue cell could start trouble again.

I’m forty-five now, but I remember when all I wanted was to hit thirty. At the time that seemed like a more dignified age to die than twenty-eight or twenty-nine. I had read the statistics for the percentages of women who would be alive two years, five years after my kind of diagnosis. Even though I survived the first round with cancer—six months of chemotherapy and a mastectomy—I never knew if or when there might be another round. Would I die or live? Which column would I land in?

When I turned forty, my forty-year-old friends started complaining that we were getting old. I always thought: Please don’t complain to me about getting old; I know the other option too well. Each year passed with the punctuation of tests, mammograms, and scary reminders of the possibilities. I still think about those statistics and hold my breath every time I wait for my medical test results. All that worrying—and then came life.

For instance: Tonight I’m on my way to Saratoga Springs for my seven-year-old son’s chess tournament. We are all squeezed into the car, three moms and three sons. We have already been pulled over by the cops for making a left turn from the right lane. It wasn’t really our fault; the GPS isn’t working. I am sandwiched in the backseat between two boys playing video games. The games are loud, there’s not enough heat, and I wish I weren’t in this car. The conversation has begun, and I’m so relieved that the other moms and kids can’t hear what I’m saying to myself.

You’re dreading the weekend. Chess moms are so uptight. After he lost a round, last year, Hayden complained that you don’t push him hard enough to practice, and that he wants you to be a Tiger Mom. You don’t even remember how to play checkers or backgammon.

I interrupt the conversation and ask Hayden to turn the music down so I can hear myself better. I pull out my mirror that lights up in the dark and stare at myself.

Your hair is so gray—you haven’t had time to dye it. Why do you always revert to pulling it back in a greasy ponytail?

I squint into the mirror to see better in the dark and realize how much my face is falling. My Botox shot is long overdue. My pants are too tight. I unbutton them so I can breathe. I pull my sweater down to cover my muffin top.

Maybe you didn’t need those fries with your meal today. Aren’t you trying to be healthier?

I have no cute clothes anymore. Earlier today when I was packing, I sneaked into my teenage daughter’s room to borrow a T-shirt. She claims my stomach stretches her shirts, so I’m not allowed to wear her cute stuff. She scares me. She’s the cool girl I never was. I worry about our relationship lately. She seems like she hates me.

I want to call Tyler from the car, but I figure he’ll just screen the call. I can’t remember the last time we had a real conversation.

I feel all the gratitude for my hard-earned life draining out of me. All the things I wanted so desperately, clung to life so I could keep, just feel like a drag at this moment. I sigh into the mirror.

· · · ·

Before they wheeled me into the OR, I put on bright red lipstick and I swore to myself that I would come out the other side and become the woman I never thought I could be. I would dare to live up to my lipstick and make every day red-lipstick-worthy. It was all about transformation: As my breast was being removed, I was going to be glamorous and reinvent myself. I had always been a gloss girl, and I thought I couldn’t wear red like other women. But I decided to wear bright red lipstick to my mastectomy to show the doctors and nurses in the operating room that I had places to go, things to do. And here I am in the car nineteen years later, a chess mom. Alive.

I pull out a new tube of red lipstick and pucker up.

You need a lip wax.

It’s going to be hard to put the lipstick on right at sixty-five miles per hour, but I need to live up to that notice-me hyper-red lipstick again. I need to make that feeling last, to remember the courage from that morning in the operating room and have it inform my entire life. No more taking life for granted.

I pause to reflect, and a different voice chimes in to the conversation in my head:

Remember when you thought you’d never have kids after cancer? This little guy is your bonus. Remember when he was in speech therapy and couldn’t pronounce an R and you worried about his future? Now he’s playing two-hour notated games. And your hair—remember when it all fell out from chemotherapy? When you used to watch Hair Club for Men commercials and cry? Remember when shampoo commercials made you lustful? You prayed to grow old when you were only twenty-seven and diagnosed with cancer. You said all you wanted were wrinkles—and now you hate them? And yeah, so you’ve gained a few pounds. At least you’re healthy. Do you remember when you had to drink Ensure to keep your weight up for the chemotherapy treatments? How can you be afraid of your own daughter? And so grumpy at Tyler? He was there when you woke up from your mastectomy. Why do you fight all the time if you were strong enough to survive cancer together? What else could be so bad?

You are lucky to be alive. To be a mom, to have hair, to have wrinkles. How dare you take one day for granted. Remember the friends you met who weren’t as lucky, who would give anything to be here, alive.

I take a deep and grateful inhale to slow down and smell the roses in my life. Long breath in through my nose, long exhale from my mouth. A cleansing breath. Breathing connects me to life. It is at this precise moment that my son and his friends begin to have a farting contest.

“Guys, gross!” I yell, and they all crack up.

I am trying to smell the roses, but all I can smell are the farts in the car.I lean across my son and hit the button to put the back window down as fast as possible.

“Mom, you have a double chin, like Family Guy. I’m sorry, Mom, it’s true.” Hayden is giving me the news as I’m trying to jut my face out the window to suck in the fresh air.

Sometimes gratitude is so easy for me. Other times it’s hard, like when I’m bored, cold, and grossed-out. I have everything I worried I never would, and it came with more heartache and pain and gray hair and wrinkles and cellulite and insomnia and even more joy than I ever imagined.

I’m not going to take one day of life for granted. I promise.

I keep inhaling. I’m visualizing my roses, even though the farts are lingering. The roses are long-stemmed and fragrant, not like the corner-market kind that have no scent. Mine are perfumed, and a reminder of how gorgeous life can be, how you can miss it if you don’t pause and reflect, appreciate, and see what is right in front of you as life whizzes by.

My son is laughing hysterically, even as I’m almost crying because his farts are so bad.

Be grateful.

Okay, it’s hard to be grateful for farts. But I need to remember to cherish it all, even the farts!

We arrive at the hotel. I smile at my son in the badly fluorescent-lit corridor of check-in. Hayden seems concerned and points at my mouth. I have lipstick on my teeth.

I’m not sure if he’s embarrassed by me or looking out for me, but I wipe my teeth quickly and do a lipstick check with him: thumbs-up. I decide it’s his way of showing me he loves me.

Chess: game on.

Life: game on.

Here is my story of mining the gratitude.

CHAPTER 2

Skye’s the Limit

My name is Geralyn Lucas, and I have a shopping problem. I have always had a shopping problem.

Admitting it is the first step to recovery.

It got worse after my cancer diagnosis. Not only was I looking to replace my lost nipple with every purchase, but shopping took on a deeper meaning. Shopping was a way of running toward life, a declaration that I was sticking around: I needed to wear all the purchases. Buying stuff guaranteed more time: I was shopping, not dying.

The things I bought seemed to promise a new identity, novel experiences, and possible life-changing opportunities. A new me was always just a purchase away. Hiding my shopping bags from my husband, Tyler, was a full-time job. Tyler would ask, “Is that a new dress?”

“No, I’ve had this forever. You don’t remember?”

Even chemo couldn’t keep me from shopping. After my injections, feeling woozy, nauseated, exhausted, veins blackened, I always found just enough energy to make it to T. J. Maxx. Plus, losing my hair opened up a whole new shopping category: I was suddenly in the market for berets, baseball hats, fedoras, and scarves. No one could judge me for buying new head coverings; they were an essential part of my self-esteem. Did I really need four fedoras? Or eleven baseball caps, in every color, smooth velvet and plush velvet, wool and satin? Yeah, I did; the berets would bring a sophistication that had always eluded me, the baseball caps a downtown edge I had craved.

After spending time with the skull and crossbones on my chemo bag, wheeled over to me on the IV pole, shopping felt so alive. I had places to go, people to meet, things to wear.

“I shop, therefore I exist.”

One day, after an especially awful chemo when they couldn’t find a “good” vein and had to reinsert the needle three times, I fled to the warm and reassuring shopping aisles of T. J. It was only when I was at the checkout counter, surveying my loot, planning all the different outfits that would coordinate with my new hats, that I had an existential moment of sorts. Just as I was about to swipe my credit card, a voice inside my head boomed so loudly that I was sure the cashier could hear it too.

You can’t take it with you.

People could be buried in their favorite outfits, but there was no way that I could wear all these hats at once to my funeral. I didn’t know how to explain all this to the cashier, so I bought everything anyway, but as I unpacked at home I had that sickening and paralyzing thought again: I couldn’t take it with me.

Where exactly would all my prized possessions go?

Before I could spend too much time worrying about that, I had more stuff. After chemo my hair grew into a chemo-chic short buzz-cut look, and none of my old clothing matched my hair. My wardrobe was too conservative. I needed edgier suits to match my hair. And then there was my chest. Two A-cups had become a removed-then-reconstructed B-plus-cup, and the other one enhanced to match, thanks to my plastic surgeon. So of course I needed new bras. It was nice to have a medical excuse to shop: It felt like having a prescription that said “Go shopping” instead of a prescription for a dose of medication. I did need an entire new wardrobe after my cancer treatments, and I was ready. My look was evolving. Tyler bought me a black satin suit with zippers, to match my new punk hair. I was trying to forge a new identity for my new life. I loved feeling so new and different, like maybe the cancer couldn’t find me again.

But I worried a lot about the cancer coming back. I developed a phobia about waiting. I couldn’t wait in lines at the bank. Tyler tried to take me to an art exhibit to cheer me up on a really bad day, and I had to leave because of the crowd. It got so bad that I had to go on medication. I went to a doctor who specialized in EMDR, a kind of therapy used for people who have suffered severe trauma and PTSD, and I began to understand that I had a fear of waiting because I thought I didn’t have enough time left until my cancer might return. Waiting for anything reminded me of being in doctors’ waiting rooms, waiting for bad news. Waiting for test results, watching the second hand on the big clock as I waited to get my bone scan. Minutes in machines felt like hours; days waiting for blood-test results to see if my tumor levels were up and my cancer was back were torture. My doctor prescribed Zoloft to take the OCD edge off my cancer-returning ruminations. It helped with my worrying, but nothing soothed me like being let loose at a T. J. Maxx. Spending time in the home-goods section was better than a double dose of Zoloft. Looking at linens, shopping for pots and pans, buying another ceramic rooster, just brought a sense of calm that maybe I had a future.

I became a big returner of gifts because that gave me a chance to shop again, without guilt, and it seemed there was always something better out there just calling my name loudly. Returning was a guilt-free shop—found money that I could spend on something new.

After all the anguish, I made it to thirty, and got fantastic birthday presents. The “Now that you have cancer, let me show you how much I love you” presents. I was drooling over one particular present-return because the gift came from a store that was way out of my league, a store that had a doorbell, plush carpeting, and in which—when I walked in—it was clear from what I was wearing that I did not belong. The only reason I was holding a shopping bag from that store was to return something. I did have awkward return-guilt, and was extremely self-conscious to go to such a fancy store. I knew the drill: Fancy stores have the worst return rules and are real sticklers. I reassured myself that it was ridiculous to be intimidated by a store, and especially not a fashion-model-look-alike sales associate named Candy, who inspected me as I handed over the bag.

“Return?” She was glaring at me like I was ungrateful, and her stare seemed to say, “Do you know how much time we spent looking for the perfect present for you, scouring the store? Your friend thought you would love the shirt. If she could see you now, she might cry.”

To make matters worse, the birthday card was still in the box. It had a heart drawn on the envelope, with my name above it.

“You forgot something,” Candy said with a smirk.

I kept checking to make sure my friend wasn’t outside the store looking through the glass and watching me return the present, or standing behind me at the register because she had forgotten something in the store and just happened to be there at the precise moment I decided to come in and return the present. I imagined the expression on her face when she realized I hadn’t come to find a pair of pants that matched the shirt she had painstakingly picked out. Is there return-karma? I felt it burning shame into my red face. I wanted to blurt, “I know it’s not the present, it’s the thought that counts, but I only wanted to shop more.” I was a lowlife. I had taken her beautiful sentiment, her act of caring, and made it a cold, hard business calculation.

Any return-guilt evaporated when the salesgirl handed me the receipt. I knew I had to act calm when I saw the credit. I nearly screamed, “She paid that for that?” but fortunately my return experience came in handy and I just glanced at the receipt calmly. “Why don’t you look around?” Candy suggested. “We just got some great pieces in.”

Before I could start browsing, something flashy and sparkling winked at me from a glass case across the store. I tried to head toward the sweaters, but that thing kept flirting: Sparkling red and pink gemstones were luring me toward the glass case. I couldn’t turn away. Candy noticed the seduction going down and came over to make a formal introduction. She took out a set of keys to remove a jeweled cowboy belt from its case. When she held it in her hands, it seemed to sparkle even more outside its case in the direct store light.

“It’s like a piece of jewelry, isn’t it? Handmade, so much craftsmanship.” Candy looked like she wanted the belt too. “Do you want to hold it?”

Hold it? I was almost scared to touch it.

“Look: It has sterling-silver trim, traditional cowboy style, with all these semiprecious gemstones.” The stones made a dazzling pattern and the sparkle-wattage had us under its spell. It was a tiara version of a cowboy belt, with ruby red and the prettiest pink and vibrant violet crystals encrusting the belt, and the buckle was the most tasteful design ever. The silver seemed to make the crystals shine even more.

“Try it on,” Candy encouraged me.

I was experiencing the ultimate shopping moment. This belt had the potential to transform me into a person I never thought I could be. This belt was red lipstick on steroids. This belt was self-actualization. This belt would make me live forever. I would jump out of my convertible wearing the belt. I don’t have a car and I don’t drive, but the belt would make me just that daring. The belt would make me a world traveler; it would encourage me to visit its relatives in Austria, where I could buy more crystal-laden things. I could buy Austrian-crystal chandelier earrings and real chandeliers, and I could hop over to Italy because it’s right on the border. The belt would encourage me to stay thin because it accented my waist. Actually, it wouldn’t matter how much I weighed, because the beauty of the belt would distract people. By association, I would be prettier.

My hands were a bit sweaty as I looped the belt through my jeans. Candy had to help me because I was shaking so much. I had never owned anything like this, and when I looked at myself in the mirror, I sort of hallucinated the new life that awaited me.

The belt was reminding me of everything I wanted. I imagined brunches where I would never wait for a table because the belt had seduced the hostess. The belt would be a magnet, drawing to me all the perfect things that had never been attracted to me before. The belt was the perfect combination of high and low fashion. It was as glamorous as a high heel, but as practical as a flat. And where exactly was I going to wear this crystal cowboy belt? Well, everywhere. I could dress it up or dress it down. I knew this belt would bring me invitations to places where it would look perfect. It seemed like the kind of belt Pink might own. She would wear it to her recording studio. It would be so dazzling that it might inspire a new song. Women who would wear this belt were rock stars. This was a belt that conveyed a lifestyle, and new horizons would be discovered wearing this belt.

To make the belt even better, it had to be special-ordered from Austria, where all the crystals would be hand-applied. The one I tried on was a store model.

Candy explained, “It should take about three weeks for your belt to arrive.” Each dazzling crystal, shining brighter than I could dream, would be placed precisely into my belt. The wait was hard because I wanted the life that would come with it. Before the belt arrived, I had a strange dream that my nipple, the one I lost in my mastectomy, materialized from Austria. How did it ever find its way back to me? But when I woke up, I started craving the real package I was waiting for.

Finally the belt arrived. Candy called and sounded so excited on the phone.

“It’s here, and I think it’s even shinier than the floor model!”

Call-waiting was beeping through. My doctor’s office. I didn’t want to leave the belt’s status hanging there for even a moment.

“Candy, I’m so sorry, it’s my doctor’s office.” I clicked over. I always had to take calls from my doctor.

Line one seemed to be the new life, just imported from Austria. Line two: It could be cancer.

I was three weeks pregnant.

Doctors had told me I would go into early menopause because of chemotherapy. I couldn’t bank eggs before chemo because the doctors were worried that the hormones would jump-start any rogue cancer cells. I begged, but they wouldn’t relent. They told me I needed to wait at least two years after treatment before trying to get pregnant to make sure that my cancer wasn’t coming back.

There was no consensus on whether it was safe to get pregnant after breast cancer. But one thing doctors did agree on: If I got pregnant, I would be a high-risk patient; the baby and I would have to be monitored closely.

At the time I was a story editor at the newsmagazine show 20/20, and I went straight into research mode. I found the preeminent Dr. P, studying the question “How safe is it for a young woman to get pregnant after breast cancer?” Unfortunately, her study—announced in the journal Cancer—found that pregnancy after breast cancer was not as safe as previously assumed.

I contacted Dr. P anyway. She said, “If I were you, I’d adopt.”

I understood that getting pregnant was filled with risk. If I got cancer while I was pregnant, there was a program in Texas in which women could have chemotherapy after the third month, because after that the chemicals wouldn’t cross the placenta and injure the baby. But then I was haunted by the question: What if I had a baby and then I went and died on her? What if I died before I could teach her anything?

A piece I was working on at 20/20 finally convinced me that having a baby was still worth a shot. The story was about Erin, a mom whose daughter Peyton was only four years old when she started videotaping a farewell to her child because she was dying of breast cancer. At first Erin was scared to tape her good-bye, but once she started, she couldn’t stop. She talked about everything from what to say to boys to what to do when Dad remarried, and how much she loved Peyton. Erin showed me that I could still be a mom no matter what, and that love was so much stronger than cancer. And I can’t describe how badly I wanted a baby. Put every purse, every shoe, every pair of jeans, every necklace I had drooled over in a huge pile and it wouldn’t compare to how much I wanted to be a mom. It was a longing unlike any I had ever experienced. The more they told me it was impossible, the more I wanted to be a mom. I had always wanted to be a mom, ever since I was little and played with dolls. Now I wanted it even more because I’d had cancer.

One rogue cancer cell started all my trouble, and one rogue sperm was responsible for my impending joy: Thank you, Tyler! Having a baby after cancer felt like a sprint toward life. There was no turning back if you were pushing a baby carriage.

When I clicked back over to Candy, I was still crying tears of joy about my baby news. Maybe one tear of lament: the belt. I tried to imagine if I could wear the belt while I was pregnant. How long did pregnant women retain any waistline? Could I have the belt expanded? But I’d never seen a pregnant woman actually wearing a belt.

“Candy, this is so awkward. The belt. Can I return it? I’m pregnant!”

“No problem; in fact, I just had a woman who wanted one too. Come into the store; we just got some great new things that might be more practical.” The word “practical” hung in the air, and every dream about the belt and me evaporated and was replaced with visions of diapers, burp cloths, bottles, baby wipes, and the smell of poopy and spit-up. Those visions almost choked me when I returned to the store. I saw the belt one more time in its case, working its wiles on me again.

Candy led me away from the case toward a black sweater made with spandex. She explained it would stretch comfortably around my expanding belly and then shrink back after my pregnancy. The good news: I had a whole new category of shopping to do—maternity wear.

· · · ·

And once I realized I was having a girl, it was off to the baby stores because she needed that adorable leopard-print onesie. Shopping for baby clothing is an unfair challenge to someone with a shopping issue. Baby clothes are all too cute and irresistible, and it’s always practical to keep buying stuff, because babies grow so fast! My daughter had black-fur-lined white go-go boots (bought on deep discount), before she could even walk, actually before she was born.

I named my baby for the mantra that had sustained me through every surgery, every IV they put into me. My hypnotherapist had suggested the mantra. Here’s what she said: “You are like the sky. Nothing can stick to you, not even a needle. The sky is vast and open and never changes, even though there are changes. A plane can roar through the sky, a storm, a sunrise, and a sunset. You can throw paint at the sky, and it will always be the sky.” I was safe because I was the sky, so I named my daughter Skye.

My estimated due date: July 26, the exact date I’d had my biopsy four years before. How could the same date mean such different things? A diagnosis of malignant cells and a birth. Was that a bad omen or a good omen? The baby would just miss having Cancer as her astrological sign—I had forgotten that cancer could also be a Cancer, a baby born when the sun was in that sign of the zodiac. Her life was a new symbol of life for me: Those endless white hospital floors had led me to the operating room for surgery to remove cancer, and now they’d take me to the OR for a C-section to give me a baby.

I wore lipstick to my C-section.

It was surreal to wear lipstick in the very same hospital, to a very similar operating room, for such a different reason. When I had put on lipstick four years earlier, I never imagined wearing lipstick to meet my baby daughter.

Tyler was there in the OR, as he was for my mastectomy. When we heard our daughter’s first cry of life, it seemed to dry the tears we’d both cried before. He assured me that he would be both daddy and mommy if my cancer came back. He knew that having a baby with me was a risk, but he wanted to take it. “I want your baby so I’ll always have a piece of you if anything goes wrong.”

Remarkably, her eyes were sky blue, sparkling brighter than Austrian crystals, rimmed with thick black natural-mascara lashes. She, like my mantra, would heal me. Her middle name was Meredith, to add more gravitas and to honor my former boss, who survived breast cancer but was never able to have a child. Giving my baby the name Skye Meredith was my tribute to the journey I took to have her. She could always be S. Meredith if she wanted to be a lawyer or do something else serious.

In the hospital she was brought to me in a little glass jewel box; the nurse wheeled her in, like wheeling in room service. The box was like a present from Tiffany’s—all that was missing was a satin bow. Her skin was pink and soft and suddenly she was the best present ever. This was better than my engagement ring. Better than the black patent-leather shoes I looked at in the window longingly for three weeks waiting for them to go on sale. Better than the Austrian crystal cowboy belt. Anything I had ever wanted before seemed to go to the bottom of my wish list, and she was on the top. I loved Skye in a way I had never loved anyone or anything before. Just saying I loved her didn’t seem enough.

The glass box was so clear, I could see through it perfectly, and so clear there were no reflections to distract from the main attraction. This glass held no secrets and it was shiny like her new life. It was the perfect glass to hold her, like a simple clear glass vase to showcase only the beauty of the flower it’s holding. I just wanted to stare at her in there. When she was returned to the nursery, there was a glass wall between us, a glass wall marked with the fingerprints and breath of parents pushing up against it to look at these babies all wrapped in blankets.

Sometimes I’d look in on her in the middle of the night, staring at her until I needed to shuffle back to my room, barely able to stand from the C-section, to take painkillers. But the painkillers didn’t kill the pain I felt from being away from her while she was sleeping in the nursery. I needed to be with her, next to her, all the time. On my second night in the hospital, I pulled myself slowly to the nursery, holding on to the wall to keep my balance. When I got there I expected to see Skye sleeping peacefully in her blanket. She was screaming.

“I will rescue you. I will know when you’re crying,” I said to myself in a low but firm voice so the other people standing at the glass wouldn’t think I was talking to myself like a crazy woman. “I will know whenever you cry; I will be your knight in my hospital gown, here to rescue you, my princess in your poopy diaper.” It was so strange and complicated—this love I felt for her despite morning sickness and vomiting, three days of labor, the cut from the C-section that seemed to hurt especially when I held her, the breast-feeding on one boob. All of that risk to have her was rewarded by staring into her blue eyes, feeling invincible, like my mantra: “I am the sky.”

Table of Contents

Chapter 1 Right Now: Stop and Smell the Roses 1

Chapter 2 Skye's the Limit 7

Chapter 3 Killer Butt 21

Chapter 4 Random Acts 33

Chapter 5 Joie de Vivre 43

Chapter 6 How to Have a Worry-Free Day 55

Chapter 7 Deathbed Regrets 67

Chapter 8 Mom/Daughter/Mother 89

Chapter 9 Red Velvet Cupcake 101

Chapter 10 Romance Smackdown 117

Chapter 11 Sweet 131

Chapter 12 Bitter 141

Chapter 13 Blood, Sweat, and Tears 157

Chapter 14 Honey, You're Never Ready 179

Chapter 15 Good-bye for Now 185

Chapter 16 Stardust 193

Chapter 17 Petal 201

Acknowledgments 205

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher

Praise for Why I Wore Lipstick to My Mastectomy:
 
"A bold memoir."
People
 
"Outrageous and often hilarious. . . . This is a totally frank, inspiring and defiant account of undaunted courage."
Seattle Post-Intelligencer

"Read this book and you’ll never wear lipstick the same way again."
—Kim Cattrall, actress

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